DUNCAN BARKES: Manners maketh man, not the children

ACCORDING to a recent survey nearly a quarter of us believe that as a nation good manners are in decline. The stats suggest we are an increasingly impolite society.

It amazes me how something as simple as being polite could possibly be such a challenge.

‘Good manners cost nothing’ is how the saying goes, but who should be responsible for teaching those manners? The research also reveals 70 per cent of us believe the teaching of manners should be part of the national curriculum.

I find this idea extraordinary. Teachers surely have enough to do without having to worry about teaching our children the rudiments of common courtesy. Of course teachers should encourage politeness, but teaching it is surely down to parents?

Debate rages: are parents responsible for the deterioration of manners? Only 43 per cent of 18-24-year-olds blamed their parents, compared to 76 per cent of over-55s.

I don’t think it is that simple. It is very easy (and convenient) to point the finger of blame, but I believe we all have a part to play in making politeness and good manners the rule and not the exception. As a society we are sometimes guilty of demonising children. It is very easy to say they are disrespectful, but if they do not grow up in an environment where kindness and courtesy are common practice, then how are they going to learn? We should be leading by example, not condemning an entire generation.

As adults we can be pretty rude to each other. How many times have you held a door open for someone, for them just to breeze through it without acknowledging you? Last week I was behind a man in a queue at the deli counter in the supermarket. He spoke to the woman behind the counter as if she was something unpleasant he had found on the sole of his shoe.

I think the research stacks up. We are ruder and manners are sadly lacking. But simply chucking the problem at teachers and suggesting manners are taught at school is a cop-out.

If we want tomorrow’s adults to be courteous then we need to make a start by minding our own manners today.

A wheel-y top job at bike shop

I recently paid a visit to City Cycles in Chichester to get a hand-me-down bike we had been given for Barkes Junior cleaned up and repaired. The result was a bike that was as good as new, a delighted little girl and the conviction that the chaps running this splendid independent shop could give lessons in customer service.

As well as being fantastic value for money they simply couldn’t have been more knowledgeable or helpful.